Dental Office Embezzlement of $100,000 in Dental Insurance Payments

Dental Office Embezzlement of $100,000 in Dental Insurance PaymentsDental office embezzlement is still alive and well in California.

Deborah Lynn Kessler, 45, pleaded guilty to four counts of grand theft over charges that she embezzled more than $100,000 in dental insurance payments at the dental practice where where was manager.

The Orange County Register reports that Kessler signed dental insurance payments over to her personal bank accounts over the course of about three years. Investigators initially said she may have used the money to pay for an RV, boats and trips, and to cover her personal bills.

She was sentenced to two years in jail, plus an additional two more years of community supervision.

According to a 2010 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners report almost one-fourth of all embezzlement cases report losses of at least $1 million with smaller businesses being the most susceptible to fraud.

The average embezzlement scheme lasts for 18 months before detection.

The U.S Chamber of Commerce estimates that employee embezzlement costs American companies $20 billion to $40 billion a year. A long-term employee is 15 times more likely than a stranger to steal from a company.

Some of the best ways to prevent dental office embezzlement is by implementing a segregation of duties, keeping petty cash to a minimum and requiring dual signatures on checks.

Has your dental practice ever been the victim of employee embezzlement? What happened, and how did you handle it?

For more on the Orange County Register story see: Dental worker guilty of stealing more than $100,000

Dental Care: California Medi-Cal Cut Dental Coverage for 3 Million

California Medi-Cal Cut Dental CoverageThe Los Angeles Times is reporting that ever since California cut coverage for 3 million Medi-Cal recipients two years ago, dentists say patients now wait until infections become so severe they must visit emergency rooms or their teeth must be pulled.

In the Los Angeles Times article, Nagaraj Murthy, a dentist in Compton for the past 32 years, states that ever since California cut back dental coverage, he has lost about half of his adult patients because they don’t have money to pay for dental treatments. He doesn’t charge these patients for preliminary comprehensive exams but said he can’t afford to provide free dental treatment.

The highly anticipated healthcare reforms are not expected to help.

California’s Medi-Cal program no longer pays for X-rays, root canals, dentures, fillings or cleanings. As a result, some dental patients are having their teeth pulled instead of repairing or replacing them.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that 12% of U.S. adults 20 to 64 have not been to the dentist within the past 5 years.

For more on this story see: Reduced State Dental Benefits Create Dire Situation for Patients.

Dental Marketing: Negative Online Review Appears as a Facebook Page

negative dental page on FacebookIn the past The Wealthy Dentist has written about negative online reviews in such articles as Appeals Court Says Yes to Dentist Lawsuit Against Patient for Online Review andWhen a Dentist’s Relationship Goes Bad on the Internet — both stories about harmful dental critiques posted on review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List.

But in August of this year, Chris Cook of Bakersfield, CA, pushed negative online reviews to a new level.

It was reported in dental news site DrBicuspid.com that Mr.  Cook took his 5-year-old son to see Bakersfield pediatric dentist Edward Dove, DDS, for a tooth extraction. Mr. Cook claims Dr. Dove mistreated his son during that visit by extracting a tooth before the child was adequately sedated.

According to DrBiCuspid.com, Cook stated that his son vomited up most of the sedative, screamed, and urinated on himself while allegedly being held down by three dental assistants during the procedure.  Allegations Dr. Dove vehemently denies.

Chris Cook decided to take matters into his own hands and created the “I Hate Dr. Dove of Bakersfield” page on Facebook, attracting more than 200 members in its first 48 hours.

Luckily for Dr. Dove, Facebook does have a policy for pages with the word “hate” and considers them in strict violation of their terms of service.  They swiftly moved to shut down the dental hate page.

Cook was undaunted by the Facebook boot, turned around and created a second Facebook group page, “Bakersfield dentist DOES NOT ROCK!!!!!!!!!” which is still up and active.

Dr. Dove has handled the situation by defending his treatment in the press and pointing to his 23 years in practice without a single disciplinary action. He has chosen not to engage with Chris Cook on his Facebook page, and was quoted in Dr Bicuspid as saying, “I think my reputation will be hurt a little bit, but right now I just want to calm down,” Dr. Dove said, “This guy is going ballistic, he’s trying to smear me, and I’m getting bullied.”

But should Dr. Dove be more concerned?

Just how significant are bad reviews for the future of your dental practice?

A new survey by market analysis firm Cone, Inc., found that four out of five consumers have reversed purchase decisions based on negative reviews found on the Internet. Another survey by Ratepoint found that 40 percent of consumers indicated they are more likely to consider a local business when they respond to a negative online review.

In the case of a Facebook page being dedicated to hating a dental practice, a dentist has little recourse since the unhappy page creator would have to allow the dentist to join the group page in order to issue a response.

Dentists have had little luck in defamation lawsuits when it comes to negative online reviews since the courts tend to look upon unhappy reviews as free speech. In a recent defamation case in California, a dentist has been ordered to pay $80,000 in attorney fees to the parents who posted a negative online review.

So how do you combat something like a negative Facebook page?

By making sure your dental practice has more than one website that appears on the top pages of Google when your business (and personal) name is searched online. Also have your own Facebook page, or pages for each type of treatment you offer. Have a Twitter page and make sure your practice is listed in as many dental directories as you can find. The idea is to control what appears on the first page of Google about your dental practice. Regular press releases help with this too.

For solutions to multiple name search and directory listing go to: www.InternetDentalAlliance.com.

For more on this story see: Facebook Pulls Plug on Angry Dad’s Antidentist Page

A Little Periodontitis Mistake That Cost a Dentist $200,000

periodontitis malpractice lawsuitA dental patient has sued his dentist for malpractice, claiming supervised neglect, which caused him periodontitis.

Former patient Harry Berkowitz asked for compensatory damages from his dentist Dr. Dennis Miller (D.D.S) for his failure in diagnosing the periodontal disease that was silently progressing for years and ultimately destroying his teeth.

WorldDental.org reports that Berkowitz, who was a steady patient of Dr. Miller, always maintained regular dental checkups. It was at just one of these regular check-ups in 2009 where Berkowtiz learned from his Physician that he would need extensive root canal therapy. Since this seemed out of the ordinary from his usual dental treatments, Berkowitz decided to obtain a second opinion with another dentist.

The second dentist told Harry Berkowitz that he was apparently suffering from a severe periodontal disease that was badly affecting all his upper teeth. He was referred to a periodontist who extracted all but two of his upper teeth and then replaced them with permanent bridges and dental implants.

In his legal claim against his regular dentist, Mr. Berkowitz stated he was never asked for an x-ray examination to diagnose the periodontal disease that claimed most of his upper teeth. Dr. Miller countered this allegation by stating that he had suggested several treatment options to Berkowitz over the 20 years he was his patient, but Berkowitz declined some of the doctor’s treatment suggestions by insisting that full dental care would be too expensive.

The malpractice case was settled in the amount of $200,000.

When I first started as a dental management consultant — over 20 years ago — attorneys were attending seminars on how to sue dentists for periodontal neglect. And of course I had one of my doctors sued for this. The case was dismissed when we presented the scheduling book (yes a real hard copy book) showing the patient had missed or no-showed for continuing care appointments eleven times in a two-year period.

The issue was documentation of the patients failure to accept and complete treatment. Your ultimate protection is to dismiss the patient!

How do you screen for periodontitis? What do you do when patients refuse your dental treatment suggestions?

For more on this story see: Matters of the Law: Patient Sues Dentist for Neglect.

Dentists: Can Copyright Law Protect You from Negative Online Reviews?

dentists and copyright lawOnline dental reviews can be a problem for dentists when negative reviews appear, especially when they feel the review is possibly retaliatory or bogus.

A few thousand doctors have taken matters into their own hands by working with a company called Medical Justice, that created a way to use copyright law to go after negative online reviews.

For about $100.00 a month, Medical Justice protects its doctors by going to online review sites and demanding any bad reviews be removed due to “a breach of copyright.” The company instructs doctors to have their patients sign contracts that assign away the copyright in any future review the patient might be compelled to write online.

Techland Times reports that Medical Justice claims what they’re doing is not only protecting the doctors from unfair bad press, but also from bogus reviews. “Some sites say, we don’t know if you’re telling truth, and we don’t know if they’re telling the truth — it’s the Internet, so deal with it,” contends Shane Stadler of Medical Justice.

Moco News writes that by having patients assign copyright in any reviews to their doctor, Medical Justice is hoping to help doctors get around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (an “arcane nuance of cyberlaw,” according to Medical Justice’s website), the law that protects web services from getting sued over content posted by their users.

It is being reported that Yelp has refused to honor a doctor’s take-down notice based on copyright infringement, and another online review website called RateMDs created a “Wall of Shame” to identify doctors who are using the copyright contracts.

Sound unreasonable? Do you think it’s irrational to demand dental patients sign a copyright assignment form when they visit a dentist office?

For more on this story see Doctors Now Using Breach of Copyright to Quash Bad Online Reviews and Can Doctors Use Copyright Law To Get Rid Of Negative Reviews?

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